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How We Engineer Happiness at WordPress.com

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The Happiness Lead at Automattic, Andrew Spittle, did a nice interview with Olark about how we approach engineering happiness for everyone who uses WordPress.com and other Automattic products:

Engineering Customer Service at WordPress.com

Along with the larger overview of what we do, Andrew included this little tidbit describing what I think is one of the biggest challenges (but also biggest opportunities) in our work in the WordPress.com forums, where I spend the bulk of my time:

… a Happiness Engineer also does a little bit of qualitative customer feedback. We always get long public forum threads whenever we change something. It’s partly going back through those and picking out the highlights or the commonalities, and communicating those back to product teams.

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Testing as Exploration

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In the beginning, there was testing.

Thus begins James Bach and Michael Bolton’s essay on Exploratory Testing 3.0. The point they make is that, at the start, there wasn’t a clear distinction made between exploratory testing and automated testing. It was only after the rise of automated, scripted testing that the term “exploratory testing” came about to define human, interactive, ad hoc testing.

Bach and Bolton describe the evolution of exploratory testing over time. They note how the concept of agency came to characterize exploratory testing as opposed to scripted testing, and how they eventually decided to do away with the distinction altogether. That is, their new definition of testing is not exploration versus scripting — it characterizes scripting as just one technique through which we can explore and test our software:

Testing is the process of evaluating a product by learning about it through exploration and experimentation, which includes: questioning, study, modeling, observation and inference, output checking, etc.

As someone who loves tinkering with, exploring, and trying to break new things, I wholeheartedly support that perspective.

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Migration and Loss

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Migration involves loss. Even when you’re privileged, as I am, and move of your own free will, as I did, you feel it. Migrants, almost by definition, move with the future in mind. But their journeys inevitably involve excising part of their past. It’s not workers who emigrate but people. And whenever they move they leave part of themselves behind.

Migration is a good thing, so long as it is voluntary. I believe in the free movement of people. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have a price. I have choices that most of the world’s migrants don’t have. I can go back. And I’m happy where I am.

“As migrants we leave home in search of a future, but we lose the past”
Gary Younge

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New Design: Kiore Moana

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I was bit by the redesign bug over the weekend and freshened up this blog’s design. I decided to try out Kiore Moana, by Elmastudio. It’s the first time I’ve used a premium theme on my blog — I tend to try out new themes often enough that I don’t want to commit to buying a premium theme. But I’ve had my eye on this one for a while, and it was relatively inexpensive.

I’m also trying out the theme with only minor customizations, at least for now. I really love the minimal style, so it seems a shame to dress it up too much with extra bits and pieces. I added some custom fonts, chose one custom color (the background color on my about page), and removed the post format icons — they’re really cute but didn’t feel right for my style.

Otherwise, I’m using the theme as it is out of the box. It took me more time to settle on the new theme than it did to set it up, and so far I’m really happy with it. It even inspired me to choose a little logo for the blog. I hope you like it!